NTCA Regional Training programs educate and inspire

In 2018, NTCA rolled out its program of Regional Training events, with special programs designed for its NTCA Five-Star Contractor Members. 

In the late fall, two NTCA Five-Star Regional Training events took place, presented by NTCA Training Director Mark Heinlein. The first program was unveiled at Grazzini Brothers & Company, Eagan, Minn., one of the largest union contractors in the country, as well as a NTCA Five-Star Contractor. A couple of weeks later, Mark delivered the program to the expansive commercial contractor David Allen Company in Raleigh, N.C. Both of these programs were met with great enthusiasm, and brought essential information to tile setters, foremen, and office staff of these companies. 

Grazzini Brothers & Company

At Grazzini Brothers & Company, it’s important to note that the program served as key complementary training to the skills union contractors learned as part of their union apprenticeships. “Even quality tile setters trained in formal apprenticeship programs need to participate in educational workshops and training programs, especially because the technology in our industry is vastly different than when they were trained in proper tile installation,” said NTCA Executive Director Bart Bettiga.

Grazzini Brothers Project Coordinator Steve Olson gave the program high marks. He called the classroom portion of the program “invaluable because it helped me become more familiar with a resource that I use almost every day: the TCNA Handbook. When putting together a bid it is critical to investigate the specified setting methods. In many specs the setting method contains components that aren’t listed or shown elsewhere, making it easy to miss items you will be on the hook for later. 

“For example,” he continued, “F113A is a standard thinset install but F114 is a reinforced mortar bed install with cleavage membrane and epoxy grout. Just missing that one number difference could be a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars on a large job. After going through the training, I know I can also use the TCNA Handbook to learn about different kinds of tile, the characteristics of various grouts and setting materials, substrate tolerances, and of course setting methods. Clearly it can be very worthwhile to learn more about and gain experience with the TCNA Handbook.”

But that’s not all – the hands-on portion of the program also opened Olson’s eyes about correct ways to install tile. 

“Having started out working in the office, I have very little field experience with tile,” Olson said. “This meant that while I knew the business side of a tile job, I only knew the basics of how the tile was installed in the field.

“The hands-on portion of the training was very useful because it showed me the correct way to prepare for and install tile,” he added. “We learned about some of the common mistakes installers can make, and the problems they can lead to down the road. The most useful and interesting part was seeing how different trowels, mortars, tiles sizes, pressure, and back buttering can affect mortar coverage. This also will be useful from a budgeting standpoint, as it was helpful to see how much more mortar a large- format tile uses compared to something like a 4-1/4” x 4-1/4”.”

Kristin Simon, who works in the Grazzini Brothers & Company office, also benefited from the training.

“The classroom portion of the day included several things that directly apply to my daily work,” she said. “Several definitions regarding tile were clarified. I learned where to find more information on tile installation methods as well as tile, substrate, and installation specifications.

“As someone who works from the office, it was good to get a chance to see people working ‘in the field’,” she added. “We got to watch the tile installers actually use several preparation and installation products. One of the most interesting parts was learning how they find and correct problems in the substrate. Overall, it was a very informative experience that will help me as I continue in this career.”

David Allen Company

NTCA’s Mark Heinlein (l) and CTEF’s Scott Carothers, presented a dynamite training at David Allen Company in the fall of 2018.

Martin Howard, David Allen Company (DAC) Executive Vice President-Operations, Tile, Stone & Pre-Construction and immediate Past President of NTCA, was over the moon with the Raleigh training. 

“This event was a smashing success, from the first introduction to the last tool going back on Mark’s truck before heading out of town,” he exclaimed. “The work that Mark and Scott (Carothers, Director of Training and Education at CTEF) and their team did to set up all the work stations, the thought and preparation of materials, tools, scripts – it was all the absolute best event I have ever seen or heard of or could have imagined. We started day one with about 43 attendees including 24 participants and finished day three with 32 attendees and 24 participants. This program never lost any momentum, but just keep getting better with each segment.

“These guys worked so hard and long to make this the BEST!” he added. “I can’t thank them enough for investing in this type of training and education. We had 30-year veterans to first-year newbies and they all could not stop talking about how much they learned and how grateful they were for the opportunity to be a part of the event. Another of our experienced lead installers just came by my office to tell me how much they learned. They wanted me to know how grateful they were that DAC values them enough to bring such an outstanding educational experience to them. He also wanted to know how soon we would be doing it again. I told him it would probably be a couple of years before we could get Mark and Scott back, but if he would give me the topics he wanted to learn more about, we would do our own version of this event more frequently.

“Creating this kind of hunger for knowledge and training is difficult to achieve, so hat’s off to you guys for making it happen!” he concluded. 

NTCA Training Director: future programs

NTCA Training Director Mark Heinlein reflected on the slate of programs for the last year that culminated in these two NTCA Five-Star Contractor Regional Trainings. 

“Whether remodeling a bathroom or producing the next training program, I feel it is always very important to build the current project or program with an eye toward making the next one even better,” Heinlein said. “Much was tried and learned in all of our 2018 programs and the Raleigh program benefitted from those that came before. The new things we tried in Raleigh will be used again and perfected for future programs.

“Our standards-based training programs are unlike anything else being done,” he continued. “While we introduce and use a wide variety of tile, installation materials and tools, these are not product demos. These are as real-to-life as possible classroom sessions and hands-on experiences. As I like to say – ‘How cool is that!?’

“This year with our regional programs especially, I have been fortunate to work with many respected and knowledgeable industry experts across the country,” Heinlein added. “Much has been and tried and improved on and replicated. In my opinion, NTCA is truly forging a valuable new traveling educational experience for our association members and industry in general.”

Bettiga added that the NTCA Regional Training programs are not simply about training attendees but also inspiring contracting companies to incorporate key concepts into their own in-house training efforts. “Perhaps part of our future efforts can be to provide mentorship, concepts of training, and ways that they can mix online education with these regional training programs,” he said. “We will never become obsolete if we continue to reach out to the thousands of members and potential members in this way, and we will continue of course to update all of our members on new developments, new technology, etc. 

“One of the most important components of the type of value we can bring to our members is this: If Grazzini Brothers and David Allen Company found value here, (two of the largest and most successful union and open shop contractors in the country), there is no reason to think others will not find the same value.”

Stay tuned for information about the 2019 schedule of Workshops and Regional Training Events, beginning in February.

Sacramento contractor strikes out on his own after recession; invests in certification

Russell Laird, of A+ Tile & Stone in Sacramento, Calif., (aplustileandstone.thebluebook.com) has made a name for himself in the tiling world, aiming for excellence in his typically commercial, public works projects. 

“Quality is what sets me apart from my competition,” Laird said. “I personally oversee every project and train my employees to do an excellent job so we don’t ever have any patch work or callbacks.” Though his company considers itself a commercial contractor, it applies this same level of quality to residential work for friends and family. 

It wasn’t an easy start. When the recession forced the company Laird was working for to close, he decided to go out on his own. “It was slow going at first,” he explained. “I had to bid very low to land work, but managed to grow each year. Now I am doing large commercial projects for the big reputable contractors like Turner and pricing has bounced back to a respectable level. I hope it stabilizes for a while.”

Laird’s firm foundation allowed him to springboard into his own company in 2010. “I starting doing tile in 1989 for Custom Tile in Oroville where I learned residential (mud work) and some commercial,” he said. “Around 1994 I started working for companies in Sacramento, where I learned larger commercial, which I prefer, and have found my niche today.”

For this pool deck in the San Francisco Bay area, A+ Tile & Stone floated an entire deck that was stamped concrete to make it flat enough to receive large format 12” x 24” tiles. The crews used uncoupling membrane over the entire floor and expansion joints per EJ-171. They finished off with stainless steel edge trim at pool edge and bottom of skirt.

About six years ago, Laird chose to join NTCA, “to be associated with like-minded people who constantly strive to improve and learn. The greatest value from being a member is meeting and learning from other members.”

After three years of association membership, Laird decided to pursue NTCA Five-Star Contractor status. 

“What led me to seek Five-Star is striving to be the best in my field,” Laird explained, adding, “It levels me with union companies as far as some bidding opportunities, and allows me to bid on some commercial projects that I would otherwise be excluded from. It has benefitted my company by allowing me to bid these projects – and I really like including the Five-Star logo on my company shirts.”

Laird is a big believer in the strength of qualified labor, and has made it a goal to get his installers credentialed. “We currently have four installers certified, which is 100% of my full-time installers including myself,” he said. “We all took our test at Surfaces in Vegas, which is about a 10 hour drive for us.” Laird himself is CTI #1091 (See TileLetter’s Qualified Labor story in December 2015, for details), and passed his exam in January, 2015.

“Every year I try to take one person to Surfaces to get certified,” he said. “I took two in 2016, one in 2017 and missed 2018. But I believe I have one ready for this year.”

Being a tile contractor holds many benefits for Laird. “The greatest joy I get from being a tile contractor is I get to pay my bills,” he said.  “Each job is different, so it’s not boring – and I am passing on my knowledge to my two sons so they can take over my company some day when I retire, if they choose. It is also satisfying to see the completed project – which completely transforms the area – and have satisfied customers.”

This lobby at Truckee Public Utility Office features an inlay of Donner Lake with blue tile and river with pebble stone. This remodel had an existing slab that varied 1-1/2“ in elevation, so Laird and his crew ground 1/2” off the high spots and floated everything level to that. They chose this strategy because the elevator was at that elevation and not movable. The floor angled down to the front door to meet that elevation, bending at a grout joint. The contractor employed a tile band saw for some of the radius cuts.


Happy New Year from TileLetter

“The number one skill in life is not giving up.”  – Bryant McGill

Happy New Year! Weren’t we just wishing that to each other only 365 days ago?

Here we are again, at the beginning of a blank book of possibilities spreading before us for the next 365 “pages.” What are your hopes and aspirations for the coming year? How are you hoping to grow, shape or hone your business? Where do you go for inspiration, help, assistance, guidance? It’s our hope that NTCA is one of those places, and that we are supporting you in the wide range of facets of your business – education, marketing, benefits, camaraderie, working for change within the industry, technical assistance. If you haven’t browsed the NTCA website at tile-assn.com for a while, please do so this month. We have features there to prosper and support you.

January marks the beginning of the “show season” – where every week it seems there is a new trade show or conference for national or regional audiences. This month, many of us will greet each other in Las Vegas at the Surfaces/TISE West show, but there’s also World of Concrete, The NAHB Builder’s Show and KBIS on the horizon. Take a look at the Industry Calendar in this issue for a listing of shows and events throughout the year. 

And only a few months down the road, we return to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida for Coverings ’19, from April 9-12. There’s a lot of preparation at NTCA and the industry for this industry powwow – and one of those things is a story planned for our Coverings issue of TileLetter: Making the most of Coverings. I put these questions before those of you who have attended or attend on a regular basis: 

  • What kind of system do you have to help you work through this massive show? 
  • How do you prioritize which exhibitors you will visit or conference sessions you will attend? 
  • Do you bring colleagues along with you? Why or why not?
  • What do you most look forward to? 
  • Do you take the booth tour offered by NTCA while at the show?
  • What do you hope to gain by attending Coverings?

I would be most grateful for your feedback at [email protected] to help me build this story into something that will be useful information for Coverings newbies or those who want to make the most out of their visit to Orlando. 

Speaking of industry events – be sure to read the Training and Education story in this issue, which focuses on the dynamite regional NTCA Five-Star Contractor Trainings at Grazzini Brothers & Company and David Allen Company last fall. These two programs were the culmination of regional training NTCA put in place in 2018 and brought tremendous value to both a large union and an open-shop contracting company – as well as other locales around the country. The NTCA Workshop/Regional Training Programs for 2019 will be updated, honed and improved (if you can improve on perfection!) this year, with a new format you’ll be learning about next month. Please do yourself and your business a favor and attend one of these free events when they come your way. 

Wishing you all a great new year, and hope to see you on a show floor at some point this year!

God bless,
Lesley Goddin
[email protected]

A time for reflection

This is the 12th December editor’s letter I’ve written for TileLetter. I always marvel when I get to the end of the year that another year has passed into memory once again, together with all the highs and lows, and joys and sorrows it has contained. This year is no different.

And yet, perhaps it is. Because each year has its own flavor, its own distinctive mark. What made 2018 notable for you in your business life and in your personal life? December is the time for reflection, before we launch headlong into a fresh new year.

Here at NTCA, the shape of our association has morphed in 2018 with the addition of new staff (see Bart Bettiga’s recap and forecast). NTCA is on the cusp of a new workshop format and new initiatives for 2019. Across the Pond, at Cersaie in October, the efforts of Assoposa resulted in a revamped Tiling Town that showcased installation excellence and laid the groundwork for a spate of installation courses throughout the coming year. Read more about this in our Tech Talk feature on page 84. 

And maybe this year, you invested in a new vehicle. Carl “The Flash” Leonard, NTCA member in New Jersey did, and gave his old van to a deserving member of the industry who needed vehicular resources to get his business up and running again. Get the details in our Hot Topics feature and ogle other rides and rigs prized by NTCA contractor members.

December also marks the first letter from the new NTCA President, Chris Walker, of David Allen Company. Tap into his passion and vision for the association and the industry on page 16.

December is nothing if not a season full of celebrations and opportunity to gather with friends and family, renew your faith, be dazzled by light displays, sing traditional songs, enjoy favorite foods and bestow gifts on loved ones. Here’s affirming a brilliant season for you, no matter which holidays you celebrate and a time of renewal, reflection and rejuvenation that will fully prepare you for a prosperous 2019. 

God bless us, every one!
[email protected]

MAPEI extends international presence to East Africa






Deerfield Beach, Florida – MAPEI Group, headquartered in Milan, Italy, has grown to include 87 subsidiaries with the addition of Mapei East Africa Ltd, located in Nairobi, Kenya. The office joins existing MAPEI facilities in Egypt, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates to increase MAPEI’s reach in the growing African and the Middle Eastern construction industries.

According to Veronica Squinzi, MAPEI’s Global Development Director, “Mapei East Africa Ltd will be focused on developing the markets in Kenya and surrounding countries – an area having almost 300 million citizens where major investments in infrastructure, residential and industrial buildings are foreseen for the next years.”

Mapei East Africa Ltd is staffed by a team with broad experience in the construction and chemicals markets. Led by Middle East and East Africa Regional Director, Stefano Iannacone, the new facility enhances MAPEI Group’s presence in Africa and the Middle East.

For information about the new Mapei East Africa Ltd office, please visit www.mapei.co.ke.

Warmup® Comfort Delivered by Amazon Alexa






This just in: the Warmup® 4iE Smart WiFi thermostat that you know and love is now compatible with Amazon Alexa in North America. With Amazon Alexa integration, controlling your floor heat is now easier than ever.

Make Your Smart Heating System Smarter

With the MyHeating App and Alexa you can now control your Warmup smart heating system with your voice. Already curled up on the couch but still a bit chilly? Just say, “Alexa, increase the living room underfloor heating by 5 degrees” for total comfort control with minimal muscle movement. Hands full? Can’t reach your thermostat? These are the perfect moments to call upon Alexa for easy access to your underfloor heating systems.

Home Automation Integration

Compatibility with Amazon Echo also means that your heating system can now be tied to other devices in the home. For example, your floor heating can be turned down when you set your HVAC thermostat to “Away” mode, or when you leave your house and lock you WIFI door locks.

Whether you are seeking a helping hand or simply avoiding fully programming your thermostat the new Amazon Alexa integration feature for the Warmup® 4iE Smart WiFi thermostat is the perfect fit for you.

The Warmup 4iE thermostat is compatible with other systems and can be mounted as an upgrade to existing floor heating systems.

Warmup’s 4iE® can be found in retail locations across North America. To learn more about the 4iE® Smart WiFi thermostat visit the website at http://Warmup® Comfort Delivered by Amazon Alexa.

Zellij gallery debuts Dam authentic Moroccan Tile

Playful, balanced Dam is spelled like the English word for a barrier holding back water, but it’s actually pronounced “tham.” Though the root meanings may be the same — to enclose or include — Zellij Gallery artisans named the pattern to describe the isolated dark squares “enclosed” by a sea of white diamonds. Dam is a lovely choice for your next authentic Moroccan tile project.

 Zellij Gallery was Founded in 1912 in Fez, Morocco.  Zellij Gallery is the leading Moroccan tile maker serving the architecture and design industry in the U.S. From its showroom in the world-famous West Hollywood Design District, Zellij Gallery has completed high-end residential and commercial projects around the globe – including royal palaces in Europe and the Middle East, as well as Disney World’s EPCOT Center. http://zellijgallery.com


Announcing the Pantone Color of the Year 2019: PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral

An animating and life-affirming coral hue with a golden undertone
that energizes and enlivens with a softer edge


Vibrant, yet mellow PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral embraces us with warmth and nourishment to provide comfort and buoyancy in our continually shifting environment.


In reaction to the onslaught of digital technology and social media increasingly embedding into daily life, we are seeking authentic and immersive experiences that enable connection and intimacy. Sociable and spirited, the engaging nature of PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral welcomes and encourages lighthearted activity. Symbolizing our innate need for optimism and joyful pursuits, PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral embodies our desire for playful expression.

Representing the fusion of modern life, PANTONE Living Coral is a nurturing color that appears in our natural surroundings and at the same time, displays a lively presence within social media.

Pantone Color of the Year 2019, Leatrice Eiseman Quote.

PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral emits the desired, familiar, and energizing aspects of color found in nature. In its glorious, yet unfortunately more elusive, display beneath the sea, this vivifying and effervescent color mesmerizes the eye and mind. Lying at the center of our naturally vivid and chromatic ecosystem, PANTONE Living Coral is evocative of how coral reefs provide shelter to a diverse kaleidoscope of color.

Pantone living coral

About Pantone Color of the Year

For 20 years, Pantone’s Color of the Year has influenced product development and purchasing decisions in multiple industries, including fashion, home furnishings, and industrial design, as well as product, packaging, and graphic design.

The Color of the Year selection process requires thoughtful consideration and trend analysis. To arrive at the selection each year, Pantone’s color experts at the Pantone Color Institute comb the world looking for new color influences. This can include the entertainment industry and films in production, traveling art collections and new artists, fashion, all areas of design, popular travel destinations, as well as new lifestyles, playstyles, and socio-economic conditions. Influences may also stem from new technologies, materials, textures, and effects that impact color, relevant social media platforms and even upcoming sporting events that capture worldwide attention.

About The Pantone Color Institute

The Pantone Color Institute is the business unit within Pantone that highlights top seasonal runway colors, forecasts global color trends, and advises companies on color for product and brand visual identity. Through seasonal trend forecasts, color psychology, and color consulting, the Pantone Color Institute partners with global brands to leverage the power, psychology, and emotion of color in their design strategy.

For more information on the Pantone Color of the Year, visit https://www.pantone.com/color-intelligence/color-of-the-year/color-of-the-year-2019.

Shaw Brands Return to SURFACES 2019


For more than 50 years, Shaw Industries Group, Inc. has been noted for its excellent standard of service and industry-leading portfolio of products. The International Surface Event (TISE): SURFACES | StonExpo/Marmomac | TileExpo is excited to announce the return of the Shaw Industries’ brands – Anderson Tuftex and US Floors/COREtec in Las Vegas next January. The industry should make plans to attend the exhibits, Wednesday through Friday, January 23-25, as well as the education program, Tuesday through Friday, January 22-25, to experience everything these innovative flooring brands are bringing to the event. Anderson Tuftex and COREtec are leading, trusted providers of carpet, rugs, hardwood, LVT, WPC and SPC, tile and stone. Register as a guest of Shaw Industries now!

“SURFACES is a great opportunity for networking with suppliers, customers and designers.” Katie Ford, Director of Brand Strategy, Anderson Tuftex. “We were honored to participate last year, and we’re excited to return for a second year to reveal our 2019 introductions through an original, design-centric booth.”

 “From the very first event, USFloors has exhibited at SURFACES in a major way, and we are excited to showcase our latest innovations that will continue to surpass our valued retail partners’ expectations and enhance our industry-leading position,” said Kathy Young, Vice President of Marketing for USFloors and COREtec.

“We are pleased to have Shaw Industries’ brands presenting at the event,” Amie Gilmore, CEM, Show Director, The International Surface Event. “It is always our goal to provide the industry a marketplace for resourcing the high-caliber and desired selection of products they need for their businesses, and the presence of the Anderson Tuftex and Coretec brands, alongside the continued participation of USFloors definitely adds to the attendee experience.”

DuPont Announces New Tyvek® DrainVent™ Rainscreen Solution


DuPont™ Tyvek® product creates a space for

water drainage and air movement for drying behind cladding


WILMINGTON, Del, Dec. 4, 2018 – DuPont Safety & Construction, a business unit of DowDuPont Specialty Products Division, today announced the release of the DuPont™ Tyvek® DrainVent™ Rainscreen to provide advanced protection against moisture damage in exterior wall systems. The product is the business’ first roll good offering that creates a 6mm (0.25”) space for water drainage and air movement for drying behind cladding.

DuPont™ Tyvek® DrainVent™ is easy to cut and install; lays flat; and rolls tight against corners helping protect against poor installation and detailing errors.
Tyvek® DrainVent™ Rainscreen is a three-dimensional honeycomb-textured drainage mat that provides advanced protection against moisture damage in exterior walls.

The Tyvek® DrainVent™ can be installed behind stucco, stone veneer, brick, wood, fiber cement and metal panel systems. And helps to prolong the life of exterior cladding by creating a gap that helps prevent rot, cracking and peeling problems. The product replaces the intervening layer required with stucco and stone, while the attached heavy-duty filter fabric prevents mortar and stucco infiltration.

A benefit to contractors looking for time-efficient products, Tyvek® DrainVent™ is easy to cut and install, lays flat and rolls tight against corners, helping protect against poor installation and detailing errors. The heavy-duty filter fabric keeps mortar out, helps create a flat surface to allow the cladding to lay flat and has a high perm rating so it is very breathable. Thanks to its unique three-dimensional honeycomb-textured design and durability, it also provides uniform nonstructural support for the various claddings.

“We are bringing new solutions to help our customers build high-performance walls and provide peace of mind for homebuyers desiring the most popular claddings and designs. DuPont™ Tyvek® DrainVent™ helps walls dry by simply letting water drain, and air to circulate behind the cladding, to help prevent long-term damage to the structure,” said Alan Hubbell, Residential Market Manager, Performance Building Solutions, DuPont Safety & Construction. “The new offering is an important addition to our DuPont™ Tyvek® weatherization portfolio and customers can rest assured it will offer the performance, reliability and durability expected from a leader like DuPont.”

Tyvek® DrainVent™ includes a 10-year limited product warranty, and a 10-year limited product and labor warranty if installed properly with DuPont™ Tyvek® wrap and flashing products. For customers to ensure they are eligible for the warranty, it’s recommended that Tyvek® water-resistive barriers, like HomeWrap®, be used underneath Tyvek® DrainVent™ rainscreen. DuPont™ Tyvek® Tape and DuPont Flashing Products are suggested as well to ensure optimal building envelope performance. Using Tyvek® full system of products in this way will enable customers to take advantage of the available warranties. In addition to the warranty, the Tyvek® Specialist Network is available across the United States for additional information and customer support.

Tyvek® DrainVent™ also features a Class “A” fire rating per ASTM E84, the standard test method for surface burning characteristics of building materials.

For more information on the complete DuPont™ Tyvek® product portfolio, visit building.dupont.com or phone 1-866-583-2583.

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